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Bob Fosse is Back Without Ever Leaving Broadway

“The viewing of too many musical comedies with sentimental and over romantic plots may cause serious and sometimes incurable damage to the playgoer and the critics’ standards. Therefore, what you are about to see is an almost plotless musical. Boy might meet girl, boy might lose girl, they might meet them, boy’s new boyfriend might help girl get girl back, but there will be no villains tonight, no baritone heroes, no orphanages, no Christmas trees, no messages. What you will see is dancin’… dancin’… some singin’…and more dancin’.”

Those are the raw opening lines of the very few heard in the musical Bob Fosse‘s Dancin’, which is having its first revival on Broadway this season.

“It’s been 45 years since I performed in the original production and I’m honored to be directing this first ever revival. My vision for this Dancin´ included a fresh, updated take on the show and to introduce Fosse to a new generation of audiences. I wanted to portray him utilizing all the areas of entertainment that he so loved and worked in –theater, film television. I especially wanted to bring Bob’s love of film to the forefront of our design and bring him to life through the monologues and storytelling of the dancers. (These are) two hours of pure joy, entertainment (and) a little something new about Bob Fosse and his boundless love of dancers and Broadway,” wrote director Wayne Cilento in a statement regarding this revival.


The original production, named plainly Dancin’, was directed and choreographed by Fosse. It opened on Broadway in 1978 and ran until 1982, with a total of 1,774 performances. It had seven Tony nominations, winning two: Best Choreography and Best Lighting Design. Cilento, the director of the current revival, was then nominated as Best Featured Actor in a Musical.

Fosse started dancing professionally when he was 13 years old in Chicago in 1940 with Charles Grass, as “The Riff Brothers”. They toured vaudeville and movie houses. His main credits on Broadway started in 1954, as choreographer of the musical The Pajama Game, for which he won the first of his 9 Tonys among 20 nominations over three decades. That record is more impressive considering he died relatively young, at 60 years old.

He also directed movies, including the classic Cabaret, for which he won an Oscar and had the first of his two Golden Globe nominations as Best Director in 1973. The other one was for Lenny, in 1975.

In addition, his movies Sweet Charity, All That Jazz, and Star 80 earned Golden Globe nominations for their leading actors Shirley MacLaine, Roy Scheider and Eric Roberts, respectively, in 1970, 1980 and 1984.

To say that Fosse is “back” with this 2023 revival would be too literal, as he never really left Broadway: his influences are everywhere, after broadening and elevating the art of choreography.


Currently he has two shows on Broadway: Chicago has been running as a revival since November 1996. The movie version made after his death won three Golden Globes in 2003, with a total of eight nominations.

In Bob Fosse’s Dancin’ we occasionally hear his own voice and sometimes through the performers. Those words come as statements. “There’s nothing as exciting as when a show goes into rehearsal and then opens on Broadway. I love it. I think I have a dreadful fear within myself that there’s a great streak of mediocrity in me and a great streak of laziness. Some people have said that I’m my own worst critic, but they’re wrong.” “… is the people that you fall in love with on a show, the actors, you have this camaraderie with, and maybe it’s phony showbusiness, and God knows I’m anti-showbusiness, but there is a kind of affection, where everybody is pushing for the same thing…”


Others of his big productions on Broadway have been Damn Yankees (1956), Redhead (1959), Little Me (1963), Sweet Charity (1966), Pippin (1973), and Big Deal (1986). He won Tonys for all of them as Best Choreography.

The biographical miniserie Fosse/Verdon (2020) based on his life and colleague Gwen Verdon’s –his third wife–, got three Golden Globe nominations, including one for Sam Rockwell playing Fosse, and a win for Michelle Williams as Verdon. Their daughter Nicole Fosse, a dancer and choreographer herself, founder and artistic director of The Verdon Fosse Legacy, dreamed for 18 years about bringing back this show, “because I know how special it was to my father,” she said to Playbill. “This was his attempt at showing himself, and the world, that he could hang in there as a choreographer, that he did not need the plot of musical theatre in order to produce work and hold an audience engaged for an entire evening… (and) he succeeded.”

About the revival of Bob Fosse’s Dancin’, critic Lester Fabian Brathwaite wrote last month for Entertainment Weekly: “The company of dancers is often the unsung heart of musical productions. Here, the dancers are not just center stage, but they are also named in big letters as they come out individually to bow.”

Indeed, Bob Fosse’s Dancin’ might not be the typical musical Broadway show. And at the same time, it is “more Broadway” than many.